My Commitment to Early Learning and K-12 Education

I recently posted about the California Promise, our campaign’s cradle-to-career initiative to open wide the doors of educational opportunity for all Californians. Now, I’d like to focus on a specific priority — our state’s approach to early learning and K-12 education.

As both a local and statewide official, I have been an outspoken champion for keeping the promise of a quality public education for all students in California — and for the parents, educators and entire communities who support them.

Years ago, when it was in vogue for some politicians to address struggling schools with Mayoral takeovers, mass firings, privatization, demonizing teacher attacks or debilitating budget cuts, I adopted a different approach. I doubled down on public schools and treated local educators and teachers as working partners, not sparring partners.

When I was Mayor, the City and County of San Francisco forged new partnerships between government and public schools and colleges — improving performance, reducing truancy and drop-out rates, implementing preschool and after-school for all, expanding access to college and increasing teacher baseline salaries, housing and support.

During my term, San Francisco was the highest performing urban school district in California and the City and County balanced seven budgets in a row during economic recession without severe education cuts or teacher layoffs.

I don’t just make empty promises about investing in public education — I have built a proven track record of putting public education first and improving the performance of students and schools — while attracting teachers, instead of attacking them. I understand that California can’t have excellence without equity and that public education isn’t about picking winners and losers — it’s about giving every child the opportunity to succeed.

That’s why, for example, as Lieutenant Governor, I have voted against every student tuition hike at California’s UC and CSU system, championed more funding for pathways to higher education and advocated for a plan to make community college free.

But education needs to be a lifelong pursuit and our California Promise includes a renewed commitment to early learning and K-12 education investment:

A strong public education system is the foundation of a strong economy. California is the most prosperous state in the nation and yet ranks a woeful 46th in overall education funding. I pushed for increased K-12 education investment as Mayor and will make it a top priority as Governor. I will protect the integrity of Proposition 98 while ensuring that it is a floor, not a ceiling and will push for class-size reduction at all grade levels. In addition, Governor Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula and Local Control Accountability Plans must be continued, so we can ensure that funding is focused on schools that need it most.

Public schools should be anchors of our communities. I will create full-service Community Schools across the state, building on my record as Mayor in support of wellness centers, after-school programs and safe-school and sustainability practices at the school-site level. I have proposed additional supplemental services, including mental health, visual and performing arts education and computer science and technical education and new initiatives to hire and retain more nurses, mental-health counselors and school librarians.

California’s public schools must put students before profits. Local control is a critical part of California’s commitment to public education and should include decision-making authority over the establishment of new schools. To ensure consistency with its public mission, California must implement stricter standards for taxpayer-funded schools which are managed by for-profit companies. Most important, public education must never, ever be privatized. And our next Governor must possess the passion and principles to stand up to President Trump and Betsy DeVos and their private-voucher scheme to undermine public schools.

California needs a system that attracts, not attacks, teachers. As always, I will work collaboratively with teachers to address the achievement gap and increase school and student performance. This includes attracting and retaining teachers — the professionals who make all other professions possible — through additional professional development opportunities, competitive compensation, access to health care and affordable housing and retirement security. We will also recruit more bilingual education, special education, and STEM teachers.

Public education must include early learning. The overwhelming majority of research shows that the first years of life represent the most critical time in a child’s cognitive development. I believe our state’s education policies should reflect this reality. I’ve called for an unprecedented expansion of prenatal services, universal pre-k, mandatory kindergarten, early education teacher recruitment and professional development, and paid leave for California’s working families.

California’s commitment to ending childhood poverty. Poverty is a powerful indicator of academic achievement — and California must make a commitment to improving schools by reducing poverty and its consequences. I will make “ending childhood poverty” — which is more prevalent in California than any other state — a moonshot priority of my Administration.

Every Californian has a stake in our public education system, because it affects every community, every industry and every family. I want to hear from you and I look forward to bringing everyone together in common cause to keep California at the head of the class.